Kingston approves $1.3M USDA loan for water system
by Jason Lowrey
Dec 11, 2012 | 1142 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With a 3-to-1 vote, the Kingston City Council approved the U.S. Department of Agriculture $1.3 million loan and $981,000 grant to repair, refurbish and improve part of the city’s water utility. Council members Louise Howell, Ed Miklas and Chuck Wise voted in favor of approval, while Harold Posey voted against it.

Before the vote, Sweitzer Engineering Vice President Trent Lard reminded the council that time was running out on approving the loan package.

“My understanding is that if you don’t vote to secure the grant funds that they have allocated to you, they go into a pot and it goes to first come, first serve,” he said. “They are no longer reserved for you.”

During its Monday night meeting, the council also discussed the possibility of amending the city charter to include a city manager position. Posey suggested the idea at the beginning of the meeting, saying it would help ensure consistency in Kingston government.

“The difficulty is where we have mayors elected every two years and it’s very difficult for one mayor to pick up where another mayor has left off. The city manager form of government would keep continuity through the years to develop programs, to implement them and to improve [them],” he said.

Posey asked the council to consider sending the amended charter to the next session of the Georgia Legislature. However, City Attorney Peter Olson said it would be difficult to make such a large change in the few weeks before the next session. He also urged the council to take a year, examine the charter and see what else needed revising in the charter.

Olson also suggested alternatives to a city manager, which included hiring a city administrator — as allowed under the present charter — or increasing the mayor’s term of office from two years to four.

The council also approved a new limb and yard waste ordinance in another 3-to-1 vote. Miklas requested changes be made to the ordinance that reduced the maximum diameter of tree branches from 4 inches to 2 inches. He also requested the maximum amount of yard waste be reduced by 2 feet. His motion did not receive a second from another council member.

Howell, Posey and Wise passed the ordinance as it was written, with Miklas abstaining from the vote.

Another discussion during the meeting focused on the city’s water rates, as the council was considering whether to hire Williamson & Company to conduct a study of the water system. Posey supported the measure as he had a report from Sweitzer Engineering that stated the city was losing thousands of dollars a year due to past-due customers not being shut off. City Clerk Michele Jones said that was incorrect, as the bills were often paid the next month.

However, Jones also said there had been a problem with past mayors and council members telling her to turn the water back on for past-due customers who had not paid their bills. She continued, saying she had adopted the policy of not turning on any customer’s water unless the bill was paid in full. It was a policy the council supported.

Posey made a motion to hire Williamson & Company for the study, but it did not receive a second from another council member.

The meeting was Olson’s last with the city before he takes the position of county administrator next year.

“It’s been tough to give up my clients,” he said. “I’ve been with Kingston a long time... That’s probably one of the few downsides to taking the new job is having to say goodbye to some of my existing clients. I look forward to working with Kingston in a different capacity and I feel like they’re in good hands.”

Brandon Bowen will take the position of city attorney next year.

Other council business included:

• The first reading of a ordinance to prohibit trucks more than 13 tons from Dawson Street.

• Discussing and tabling a 4.5 percent increase in water billing from Bartow County.

• Adopting a Metropolitan Planning Organization resolution with Bartow County.

The Kingston City Council’s next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. at city hall.